Baptistery of San Giovanni in Pistoia

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Baptistery of San Giovanni in Pistoia


The Baptistery of San Giovanni in Pistoia dates back to the mid-14th century and stands on the area of the ancient baptismal church of Santa Maria and San Giovanni in Corte. The position opposite the Cathedral of Pistoia is quite usual for this type of church in the early Christian Romanesque period. It was born in a period of high construction experiences and can be considered an emblematic work of Gothic Tuscan architecture. It is also one of the last examples of a building designed to house exclusively the baptismal font. In the fifteenth century, in fact, the use of dedicating a particular building to this ritual disappeared and the practice of baptism by immersion was also lost.


Battistero di San GiovanniThe baptistery was made by Cellino di Nese who would have performed, but the news is doubtful, a project by Andrea Pisano. A small Gothic jewel, characterized by the same architectural style recognizable in the most famous twin building, the Baptistery of Piazza del Duomo in Florence. Pistoia's collection of architectural elements not only Florentine, but also Pisan and Sienese architecture, which is why the Pistoia Baptistery is considered one of the greatest expressions of Tuscan Gothic architecture.


Battistero di San GiovanniIl nome è legato alla 'curtis domini regis' longobarda, e cioè al centro politico e amministrativo della città nel Medioevo e che in passato corrispondeva probabilmente alla presenza di una Cappella Palatina, sulle cui fondamenta oggi poggia l'attuale edificio. L'edificazione del Battistero è probabilmente avvenuta nel XIII secolo nonostante venne poi completato dopo le guerre lucchesi e fiorentine con Pistoia nella seconda metà del secolo successivo.


Battistero di San GiovanniThe name is related to the "curtis domini regis" longobard, that is to the political and administrative center of the city in the Middle Ages and which in the past probably corresponded to the presence of a Palatine Chapel, on whose foundation the present building is today.The building of the Baptistery probably took place in the thirteenth century despite it was then completed after the Lucca and Florentine wars with Pistoia in the second half of the next century.


Battistero di San GiovanniIn the external cladding there is a new fact for the Pistoia churches in the transition from Romanesque to Gothic, the unique use of white marble instead of alternation with the green marble of Prato. Also on the outside, the central door, by Pier Francesco Ventura da Pescia (1522), is a masterpiece of the Renaissance carving. In the lunette above this portal there are three statues, The Virgin and the Son between St. John the Baptist and St. Peter, attributed to Tommaso and Nino, children of Andrea Pisano. The balustrade that overlooks the main entrance, which shows the image of Giovanni Battista sculpted, is linked to dramatic moments in Pistoia's history. From here he preached to pacify during heated civil clashes or to implore mercy in epidemics.


Battistero di San Giovanni - Fonte BattesimaleThe baptismal font bears witness to the earliest origins of the building, it was in fact built in 1226 by Lanfranco da Como, ratellastro di Guido (or Guidetto), as can still be read today in the inscription in oncial characters with date and signature of the artist who executed the work. The current architecture of the workshop of Cellino di Nese, already known for the works at the main monuments of Piazza dei Miracoli in Pisa. The use of colored marbles that characterizes the entire structure (typical white and green colours) is due to the Nese area, which in turn is composed of three portals decorated with sculpted bas-reliefs. On the top of the dome (shaped as a lantern) is a bronze sphere surmounted by a cross. The building has been the object of a new recent restoration project, concentrated in the consolidation and cleaning of the stone cladding of the facades. Inside, in addition to the baptismal font, there is also a wooden altar from the 16th century (previously present in the church of the Madonna dell' Umiltà), an eighteenth-century statue depicting St. John the Baptist by Andrea Vaccà.


Works carried out in 1965 brought to light the original Romanesque configuration of the baptismal font, hidden by the shape that had been given to the structure in 1724 by Angelo Vaccà. The author was identified in Lanfranco da Como, Guido's half-brother (or Guidetto), and the date of completion was set at 1226.

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